The Dark Side of Dating Apps



Story bAshley Probst

Kelly Cooper had just locked the bathroom stall behind her when her date barged in and started yelling obscenities at her. She had met this man through Tinder, a mobile dating app which she deleted immediately after returning home from her disastrous date.

People who have used dating services, like junior psychology major Cooper, are susceptible to the dangers of online dating because people can hide behind the screen to conceal their true intentions and identities.

“The added anonymity of being online keeps you from knowing who’s on the other side,” said C.K. Magliola, a sociology professor at Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “People can present a facade very easily online and that’s why the Internet is such rich grounds for scams and predation.”

Magliola said she’s wary of dating services because of the commodification, the asocial nature of it and especially the safety risks. “Dating is such a mine field anyway that when it comes to strangers, it magnifies a lot of the problems (such as sexual assault, racism, classism and ableism)…because you can’t filter it through actually sharing a social space with that person,” Magliola said.

Cooper had mutual friends with her Tinder date and they talked for a couple of days beforehand, which made her feel comfortable meeting him in person. They had agreed to go out for drinks, but Cooper didn’t expect her date to get an early start on becoming intoxicated.

“I showed up to his office and he was four beers deep, just having a grand old time by himself, and so I was awkwardly standing there thinking it was weird,” Cooper said.

Cooper tried to leave but her date insisted on staying with her and invited himself into her car so they could drive to a bar. Once they arrived, Cooper asked her roommate to call her three times with a fake emergency so she would have an excuse to go home. “The first time my phone rang, I clicked it off and he said, ‘Yeah, you better not answer that,’” Cooper said. “Then the second time it rang, he took my phone, put it in his pocket and wouldn’t give it back to me.”

Once she got her phone back after the bartender intervened, she went to the bathroom to call her roommate back and that’s when her date ran in, shot insults at her and then went back into the restaurant. “When I walked out of the bathroom, he was just sitting at the bar laughing and smiling in a very creepy way,” Cooper said.

Again, Cooper tried to leave but this time her date insisted she give him a ride home. “He made me feel bad about not driving him back and obviously he was in no condition to drive,” Cooper said. During the drive, Cooper continued to receive rude comments from her date and she said she felt relieved once she dropped him off.

Cooper said she didn’t expect to meet any quality men on Tinder, but she downloaded the dating app to meet people and she thought it would be funny.

“What I’ve learned is just because you have mutual friends doesn’t mean that person is sane or has a good head on their shoulders,” Cooper said. “You don’t know the person since they’re behind a screen.”

 Noah Mayer, a junior creative writing major, downloaded Tinder when he was a freshman because his friends started using it and he also thought it would be funny.

“My second match was this girl who was clearly sending automated responses,” Mayer said. “She was offering GFE, or girlfriend experience, for an hourly rate.”

The girlfriend experience is a service offered by female sex workers that includes acting like their client’s girlfriend, according to an escort company called Society Service.

Following his first encounter on Tinder, Mayer promptly deleted the app.

“Tinder is definitely headed in a weird, disturbing direction that isn’t really conductive to meeting real, nice people,” Mayer said. “Tinder is being associated more with weird hook up stories and sketchy situations.”

Mayer thinks it’s less common for men to experience sexual or verbal abuse through dating services, but they could be coerced into bringing women gifts.

“Guys tend to be more of the instigator a lot of times with apps like Tinder, so I think that makes them open to being taken advantage of,” Mayer said.

Mayer said that everyone will run into bad people in the world, but he thinks there are more of them on Tinder, and other similar dating services.

“I think there’s a certain amount of risk with any type of online dating,” Mayer said. “It’s just how much risk do you want to take?”

Blake DeBoer, a sophomore business major, used to have a gay dating app called Grindr and said he would receive between 20 and 30 sexual messages from strange men every day, but he always ignored them and would block them if the messages persisted.

One day, he started talking to an attractive young man and they made plans to go out to eat. His date picked him up from home, but was expecting a lot more out of the night than DeBoer had anticipated. “I opened the door of my house, he looked at me creepily and said, ‘Oh, you’re really cute,’ and then he grabbed my face and started kissing me,” DeBoer said. “Especially in the gay culture, a lot of people think that when you talk to somebody and you’re going over to meet them, it’s an automatic hook up, but I don’t think it is whatsoever.”

DeBoer said his date’s unexpected, aggressive advances made him feel uncomfortable, but his response wasn’t as harsh as it should have been.

“I didn’t really know how those things work or if I was in the wrong,” DeBoer said. “I hadn’t ever done dating like that, so I didn’t know if that was normal and I didn’t want to be mean to him.”

DeBoer said he wouldn’t have met someone from a dating service if he didn’t think he could keep himself safe, but he feels that women are more vulnerable than men.

“It happens to everyone and I guess people don’t realize that as much because they’re not as exposed to the gay dating scene,” DeBoer said. “A girl could do it to a guy but usually you see the guys having more strength, more power and the ability to take over someone.”

Magliola has a middle-aged friend who used an online dating service and experienced being overpowered by a man, in the most extreme scenario possible.

“She goes out on a date with someone, and this person is actually an esteemed professor at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), so she thought that’s pretty safe,” Magliola said. “She meets him for a date and she gets raped.”

One out of six American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and if you’re a college student, it goes up to one in five women, according to Magliola.

“When someone is a rapist or gauges in sexual assaults with a woman, do you think it’s the first time? Do you think it’ll be the last time? What would be the easiest way to find your prey? Exactly those sites,” Magliola said.

If someone is willing to utilize these dating services, Magliola warned that they can’t be passive on the actual date.

“If something is making you uncomfortable, don’t be polite. Defend yourself because it’s really a serious moment,” Magliola said. “People do get assaulted all the time, even if it’s not physical or sexual.”

Magliola said if you’re questioning your safety while on a date through one of these services, the best thing you can do is leave immediately to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

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